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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Primitivity

In Dante’s philosophy, the most basic and most forgivable category of sin is incontinence, or a lack of self-control. The incontinent sinners constantly indulge their impulses. Often, they co...

Man and the Natural World

To Dante, Nature’s author is God himself and thus anything described as natural must honor the Divine. Thus, the most unnatural scenes occur in the circles of heresy and violence, where famil...

Lies and Deceit

While the author, Dante (who is also the protagonist) obviously denounces fraud as denying or openly contradicting the truth, his contempt for it runs deeper than that. The root of fraud is linguis...

Justice

In Dante’s Inferno, justice is not merely cruel and unusual punishment designed to elicit cheap shock from onlookers. Inferno portrays God’s justice as springing from primal love, and t...

Language and Communication

A product of the rational mind, language is considered by Dante to be a medium shared by all men that serves to unite them. As a uniquely human attribute, language – like man – is never...

Wisdom and Knowledge

As the only species of all God’s children bestowed with a rational mind, humanity – according to Dante – is obligated to properly use its God-given gift responsibly. Dante calls t...

Compassion and Forgiveness

Dante considers the quality of compassion, defined as having pity for another man’s suffering, an essential human trait. Sometimes Dante’s compassion for the sinners’ plights reac...

Love

Although love is not frequently mentioned in the text of the Inferno, it is always in the back of the astute reader’s mind. Love’s single most surprising appearance comes at the thresho...

Time

Hell is all about stasis, or an unchanging permanent state, on a number of levels. First, the very structure of Hell – a series of concentric circles – gives an impression of inescapabi...

Respect and Reputation

In the Inferno, sinners in Hell are preoccupied with achieving fame and commemoration among the living. The question of how a man is remembered after his death is a topic of serious discussion. The...
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